Leather’s durability is one of its strengths. With the right maintenance and care, leather can last almost indefinitely, which makes it a sustainable fashion choice. Rather than buying inexpensive, synthetic items that ultimately end up in landfill (i.e., fast fashion), it’s kinder to the environment to invest in quality, real leather pieces that you’ll keep forever and wear time and time again.
So, how can you ensure that your favourite leather clothes and accessories stay in peak condition throughout their lifetime? Steve Sothmann of Real Leather. Stay Different – a campaign to promote the sustainable qualities of leather and champion slow style over fast fashion shares some tips below:
Most leather is water-resistant. But if you want to keep the integrity of your leather clothes intact, dry them carefully if they get wet. Don’t blast them with a hairdryer or drape them over a radiator, simply hang them up to dry at room temperature before wearing them again.
Clean any mud splashes with a soft damp cloth. More troublesome stains can be tackled with soapy water but make sure it is all rinsed off before being left to dry at room temperature.
Grease splashes can be removed with Fullers Earth (available from DIY stores) or baking soda. Sprinkle a small amount on the stain and let it sit for a few hours, then carefully wipe clean with a damp cloth.
For clothes requiring additional TLC, check out The Clothes Doctor. It can replace zips and poppers, patch tears, repair or replace damaged lining on leather jackets, and even redye items to create a whole new look.
Leather bags get a fair amount of wear and tear and can easily get dirty or marked.
If you get a stain on your leather bag, clean it with a soft, damp cloth or use soapy water. Fullers Earth or baking powder are ideal for more stubborn marks.
If your bag lacks lustre, nourish it with saddle soap, which will restore its shine and reintroduce any internal moisture it may be lacking. Saddle soap should be applied with a soft, dry cloth and gently worked into the leather until it disappears. Any excess can be wiped off with another dry cloth.
Most people know how to polish shoes – clean the dirt off, gently work the polish into the leather with a soft brush, then buff to a shine with a cloth or chamois.
But there are other steps to making your shoes last longer. Try to rotate the pairs you wear and don’t wear them on consecutive days. This allows them to dry properly between uses.
And make sure you get them reheeled or re-soled as soon as you see signs of them needing it. The longer you leave it, the more damage will be done to the actual structure of the shoe.
Your local cobbler will be able to tackle standard repairs, but more delicate, designer items require expert care.
For luxury bags and shoes, The Restory is the gold standard in maintenance, repair and restoration. Its skilled artisans offer a wide range of services, from special cleaning, mould removal and bag relining to shoe reheeling, bag strap remaking and leather surface restoration. They can even recolour or completely refashion an item you’ve fallen out of love with to give it a new lease of life, all while retaining the character earned through years of use.
There is more to looking after leather than cleaning, maintenance and repairs. How you store it also makes a difference.
You should always hang up your leather coats and jackets, never fold, to prevent creases and wrinkles. Avoid wire hangers and use wide wooden hangers to support the shoulders and prevent drooping.
To keep your designer handbag looking pristine, stuff it when it is not in use to help keep its shape. Use acid-free tissue paper, not plastic which can cause mould or discolouration. Be sure to empty its contents and dust the exterior first. Wrap any exposed hardware such as zips or chains in tissue paper too, to stop them marking your bag over time. Store it in a breathable dust bag or a neutral-coloured cotton pillowcase and place it in the original box if you still have it, otherwise lie it flat, ideally on a shelf and off the floor where it might absorb moisture. Items should be stored away from heat and out of direct sunlight, ideally at room temperature.
Designer shoes should be stored in a similar way, using wooden shoe trees to retain their shape, taking care to use the right size to avoid stretching.
This all might sound time-consuming and involved, but the benefits of looking after your leather and embracing slow style are pretty compelling. Quality clothing and accessories that stand the test of time and, as such, reduce our carbon footprint and waste, are well worth the effort.